“We made a fast decision about [Oumar] Niasse and others who will find it difficult to be part of the team. If Niasse likes to play football, he needs to leave Everton.”
Those were new Everton manager Ronald Koeman’s scything remarks in August 2016, delivered before a ball had even been kicked in the English Premier League.
Six months after his £13.5 million transfer from FC Lokomotiv Moscow, Niasse found himself unwanted and a point of ridicule. His Everton career entailed 152 underwhelming minutes and he became the emblem of all that was wrong in Roberto Martinez’s final season in Goodison Park.
The club even refused to provide the Senegalese forward a squad number. In no uncertain terms, Niasse was a persona non grata at the beginning of last season.
Fast forward 13 months and a boisterous Goodison Park is singing his name and hailing him as the solution to the Romelu Lukaku-shaped hole in attack. The Everton manager has also vastly changed his tune…
“The boy has that kind of quality and with his aggression and direct play he can create a lot of problems.
“No-one can stop him at the moment, he did well and all the credit is to the player.”
And indeed Niasse does deserve a lot of credit.
With Wayne Rooney a shadow of his former self, Dominic Calvert-Lewin looking very raw, and Sandro Ramirez fluffing his lines badly, Everton have been struggling for goals lately. The Toffees lost the three league matches prior to the Bournemouth game on Saturday with an aggregate score of 9-0.
Their attack sparked back into life with the introduction of Niasse in the second half against the South coast club. His pace and direct play flipped a devastating loss into a welcome victory. Fresh from a goalscoring cameo in midweek in the Carabao Cup, Niasse was clearly full of confidence as he collected Tom Davies’ inch-perfect pass in his stride and blasted in a rocket of a shot for his first goal. Lukaku-esque, if you like.
Having had his self-belief shattered by Koeman last season, it was another much maligned import into the English game that gave him his chance last January. Despite his decent managerial record in Greece and Portugal, new Hull City manager Marco Silva was seen as a joke-appointment. Niasse was his joke-signing.
Despite the obvious improvement in performances and tactical organization, Hull City failed to avoid the drop into the Championship. Marco Silva moved on to Watford while Niasse’s four league goals persuaded Everton that, at least, they should provide him with a squad number (and a locker if reports that he did not even have one are to be believed!) this season.